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Lependorf is a composer of   chamber music and opera intent on breathing new life into the Japanese shakuhachi. In these fragile duets with guitarist Scott Fields, you can hear him seeking to transcend the limits of the primitive instrument in a similar fashion to Yusef Lateef’s experiments with the Chinese globular flute The shakuhachi has a thin, haunting timbre — like breath made barely manifest — which Lependorf bends and manipulates with concentrated and deeply focused overblowing. But, for all his efforts (and it really does sound like hard work), he still delivers a largely one-dimensional song. Playing the more versatile acoustic guitar, Fields forays into delicate classical flourishes, deftly placed, tentative harmonics and hits of flattened minors around which Lependorf floats like a lost and disembodied soul. — Daniel Spicer,   The Wire

Here’s a duo record that   confounds the lazy — and often mystifying — assumption that the language of duo improvisation is some kind of “conversation”. Sometimes improvisation works most effectively when there is no evidence negotiation or even communication between the two elements. That isn’t quite the case here, but electric guitarist Scott Fields and tenor saxophonist Matthias Schubert have the mutual confidence to pursue independent lines in parallel. Strictly, these are Fields’ lines, since “Dipstick Triptych", “Santa on a Segway” and “Gidget Widget Wacker” are his compositions, but the execution is bipartisan, clever and supremely confident, like two opinionated guys who don’t see the need to wait for the other to pause before they get their two cent’s worth. — Brian Morton,   The Wire

Chicago guitarist Scott Fields originally   wrote this music to accompany a dance piece and, though it was recorded in 1995, there’s a definite mid-20th century feel to it, redolent of interpretive dance and abstract expressionism. That’s got a lot to do with Robert Stright’s vibraphone ü the sound of a wittily raised eyebrow ü which can’t help echoing Bobby Hutcherson’s twitchy mallet work on Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch from 1964. The Dolphy comparison also extends to Fields’s spry storytelling, with episodic compositions such as “A Carrot Is A Carrot” unfolding like tartly amusing character studies. There is seriousness here, too, and Matt Turner’s cello ü played largely straight and sonorous ü lends the pieces a plaintive gravity. When his solos fly off into wilder, free regions, recalling Joel Freedman’s mid-1960s work with Albert Ayler, it’s like a tuxedo being ripped open, Hulk-style, from within. — Daniel Spicer,   The Wire

The bassist here, Sebastian Gramss,   featured on Das Mollsche Gesetz’s Catalogue Of Improvisation, which I reviewed in The Wire 303. DMG’s improvisations follow two rules: no piece should last more than 60 seconds, and each should be followed by a pause of the same duration as the music. In contrast, Scott Fields allows the musicians to stretch out, and all five tracks last around a quarter-hour. With a line-up like this (electric guitar, cello, bass, drums), the label “chamber jazz” always hovers menacingly, but it is not particularly helpful as shorthand. Fields and co produce thoughtful music, but not unduly cerebral, dry or cautious — the improvisations are adventurous, constantly engaging and often passionate. The last Fields album I heard, Dénouement (Clean Feed) took more than a decade to get a proper release. Fortunately, this very impressive session has taken only a year to escape. Incidentally, This American Life is a Chicago Public Radio show that its producers describe as “movies for the radio,” and if this CD is anything to go by, it must be addictive listening. — Barry Witherden,   The Wire

Chicago Guitarist Jeff Parker’s ascent   has been as smooth and deft as his playing. He works ably in multiple contexts, not only in Tortoise and the various Chicago Underground line-ups but also as a sideman, backing Fred Anderson and other Chicago notables. His duo partner on this disc, guitarist Scott Fields, is somewhat less known, but that says nothing about the quality of his work.

There’s a clear division of labour, and an obvious aesthetic divergence, on Song Songs Song. Four of the disc’s six tracks are credited to Fields, and titled like works of visual art — “Untitled, 2001, Soot On Slate”; “Untitled, 1955, Crayon On Kellogg’s Corn Flakes Box”; “Untitled, 1968, Bing Cherry Juice, KY Jelly, Ketchup On Vellum”; “Untitled, 2004, Dried Blood On Gauze, Elastic Strip With Adhesive Backing”. These are more abstract, and difficult, that the opening “LK 92” and closing “The Fields Of Cologne”, both composed by Parker.

This is not to suggest that Parker is uneasy in noise/improv territory. Though he may jazz things up more frequently than his partner, he’s fearless through the disc’s 63 minutes. Indeed, his lyricism seizes the day at more than one point, making Fields’s more obstreperous gestures feel like stunts. This is particularly true during “Untitled, 1968 …”, which occasionally sounds like Parker and Fields have been replaced by Joe Morris and Orthrelm’s Mick Barr. Still, this CD isn’t a mismatch, rather a fascinating conversation between two equally talented, but philosophically distinct compatriots. — Phil Freeman,   The Wire

“My name would be ‘Dog   Drexel,’” confides guitarist Scott Fields in his online biography, explaining the title. From the Diary of Dog Drexel comprises four compositions called “Conflicted,” “Pissed,” “Bummed,” and “Agitated.” You might justifiably conclude that Fields has concocted a grungy soundtrack to an imagined life of sleaze. But you’d be wrong, though it’s certainly fraught with tension and brittle attitude. Evolved from the system of generating non-tonal scales Fields has worked with since entering the orbit of composer Stephen Dembski, this harmonically ambivalent music often evokes unease.

Dembski conducts a quintet featuring Fields on electric and nylon-stringed acoustic guitar, Greg Kelley on trumpet, Guillermo Gregorio on alto sax and clarinet, Kyle Bruckmann on oboe and English horn and Carrie Biolo on vibraphone, marimba, crotales, and unpitched percussion. There’s a cut-glass feel to the ensemble: multifaceted, hard-edged, and refractive. Luminous with the shimmer of vibes, they can sour when the reeds clash, defiant when the trumpet asserts itself, or angry and threatening when Fields’s guitar growls and lashes out.

A fifth track, “Medicated,” is credited to all five players plus Gregory Taylor who processed materials from their improvising. Its meltdown of definition into more fundamental ambivalence, volatile temperaments, and even the remnants of Fields’s spiteful soloing, dosed and deliquescing into computer-generated numbness, make for a fitting conclusion. — Julian Cowley,   The Wire

Fields has said that his   use of the word ‘Ensemble’ pays homage to The Art Ensemble of his native Chicago, rather than being a means to identify a particular group of musicians. The personnel lined up behind the name has varied wildly. Van der Schyff recurs on 96 Gestures but as part of a 12-piece group steered by conductor Stephen Dembski. Among the other members are alto saxophonist Joseph Jarman, pianist Myra Melford, clarinetist François Houle and Rob Mazurek on cornet. The composition is a structure of cued modules giving leads that encourage improvisation. Outcome can vary considerably as these three realizations, each more than an hour long, demonstrate well. Common to all three is a sense of fluency, lightness and mobility, multiple events and constant activity without unwanted snarls or messy collisions. Ostensibly very different to This That, and on a label subsidiary to CRI, which has for many years championed contemporary compositions, 96 Gestures nonetheless shares points of contact in its questioning repetitions and variations, its (more formal) permutatory maneuvers and the sense that no concluding gesture can ever be more than provisional. Fields’s choice of collaborators has been one of his strengths. Here it ensures sensitive playing and accurate reading that align the piece with substantial work by the likes of Butch Morris, Anthony Braxton, and John Zorn seeking ways to sustain and extend creative relationships between composed forms and alert improvising. — Julian Cowley,   The Wire

Scott Fields is an electric   guitarist who can go for the jugular while shouldering same fairly hefty conceptual baggage. His squally eruptions on This That suggest an intelligent and ironic man giving vent to seething anger and frustration. But this trio recording in the sympathetic company of cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan van der Schyff is by no means all spleen. Much of the album has a probing feel, quietly teasing apart modest phrases and motifs that are firmly established at the start then continuously revised and elaborated. The three players circle around the core material kneading and tugging until it has stretched into a piece that can be called “This is This,” “That is This,” or “That is That.” The reversible titles accurately reflect music that seems conclusive but is primed to unravel in order to begin again. Despite the assertive tone, nothing is ever definitively stated because it can always be said otherwise, as in all successful improvising. — Julian Cowley,   The Wire

Guitarist Scott Fields grew up   in the Hyde Park area of Chicago’s Southside, the very turf that birthed the AACM, and his Ensemble—a floating collective that over the years has included such luminaries as cornetist Rob Mazurek, percussionist Michael Zerang and guitarist Jeff Parker—is named in tribute to The Art Ensemble Of Chicago. This That is a heavy trio session, pairing Fields with cellist Peggy Lee and drummer Dylan Van Der Schyff, and it’s even better than Mamet, his extraordinary tribute to the plays of David Mamet that surfaced earlier this year. Whereas that was a subtle, conversational work, This That finds Fields tossing off manic proto-Metal flurries that land somewhere between the early motorpsycho extremities of guitarist Makoto Kawabata’s work with Musica Transonic and the heavy melodic strong work of free jazz guitarist Tisziji Muñoz. Cello and drums provide a skewered counterpoint, pirouetting around the margins as Fields channels straight through the heart. — David Keenan,   The Wire

Despite the potentially clunky concept   — the compositions inspired by the plays of David Mamet — Chicagoan guitarist Scott Fields, here flanked by bassist Michael Formanek and drummer Michael Zerang, confounds expectations with a really listenable and inventive approach to group explorations. His score alternates bursts of Mamet dialogue with sections of directed improvisation. The group intone their lines like actors, mumbling phrases and snapping back in argument. Mamet’s writing is very aware of rhythms in speech patterns — most evident in the cyclical despair of American Buffalo. Fittingly enough, that play fuels one of the trio’s most swinging takes, moving into protorock territory that at points sounds like TNT-period Tortoise. The Woods starts quietly, subtly droning and chattering with a section “meant to evoke dusk near a pond in a Midwest forest with its crickets and loons and raccoons and wind rustling through the trees….” Tension builds and spills into violence, the group slamming straight into a wall of dead feedback, while a despairing undercurrent breaks and submerges the players. — David Keenan,   The Wire

This session, featuring two trios   of guitar, bass and drums, was cut in December 1997. Chicago based guitarist Scott Fields hawked the recording around for two years, and the labels that bit either backed out or went broke. In desperation he pressed some copies and issued them through his own short-lived label, called Geode.

It would have been easy for the members of the twin trios to get locked into some kind of contest, but Fields chose colleagues aware and willing enough to co-operate rather than compete, and the two winds of the ensemble dovetail superbly into an integrated unit. Fields’s co-guitarist is Jeff Parker, the bassists are Jason Roebke and Hans Sturm, the drummers Michael Zerang and Hamid Drake: it would be hard to distinguish them in a blindfold test, as the players echo, interweave (and listen to) each other with considerable subtlety.

For the session, Fields devised related but dissimilar pitch sets for the two trios, and specified time signatures equal in length but divided differently. If this suggests the music is dry, it isn’t though it is often contemplative and a little opaque. Those, and there seem to be many, who hated Jeff Parker’s sometime gig in Tortoise and the 2005 Fields/Parker collaboration Song Songs Song (Delmark) are perhaps unlikely to connect with Dénouement, but for my ten cents it’s inventive and consistently engaging.— Barry Witherden,   The Wire

Each performer preserves a distinct   identity as the music unfolds. The lines frequently converge as a phrase or harmonic configuration is picked up and echoed in the course of another current, but those nodes never arrest the forward motion, or blur the internal contours of the music. It’s a long album, arguable, after the first few listens, a little too long given its evenness, But it is also insidious, spiked with subtle temptations to play it again. — Julian Cowley,   The Wire


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